The Gamecocks’ offense got off to a hot start, but despite getting gashed for 512 yards, they benefitted from two end-zone interceptions to pull out a 20-15 win over the East Carolina Pirates in their 2016 home opener.
An A.J. Turner 80-yard return on the opening kickoff of the game set up a Brandon McIlwain nine-yard TD run, the first of his career, to put the Gamecocks up 7-0. On their next possession, McIlwain capped a six-play, 84-yard drive with his second touchdown carry of the game to make it 14-0. After forcing a fumble on their own 29, Elliott Fry would extend the lead to 17-0 on a 37-yard field goal. The Gamecocks’ next points wouldn’t come until there was 6:24 left in the 4th, a Fry 39-yard FG.
Meanwhile, ECU couldn’t get out of their own way offensively as they turned it over three times, including two picks at the goal line, and had to settle for three field goals despite a rough outing for the Gamecocks’ defense. Their first touchdown didn’t come until there was 2:29 left in regulation - a four-yard catch by Devin Anderson to make it 20-15. South Carolina recovered the ensuing onside kick and was able to burn off the remaining time to improve to 2-1.
McIlwain was a respectable 16-28 for 195 yards in his first career start, adding 34 yards on nine carries. The Gamecocks only managed 87 rushing yards outside of that, including a 25-yard game-clinching carry by David Williams with the clock winding down. They would have no answers for Zay Jones, who recorded a game-high 190 yards on 22 catches, one short of an FBS record. Philip Nelson went 44-58 for 400 yards and a touchdown, but threw two critical picks near the end zone.
Game Thread Roll Call
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